WEEK COLLECTION 18 and some thoughts

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Can photography be storytelling? I don’t know how this question popped up this morning. Maybe I will only scratch the surface on this topic, probably not even express an opinion. No, maybe just some random thoughts.

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We often see comments on photographs like “great storytelling”, “wonderful narrative”. Then there is this much (over)used “a picture is worth a thousand words” quote.

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Now, photography contains many ways to express yourself. You can work in series to create a form of unity, to set a narrative. Something cohesive that we can maybe identify as something thoughtful. From a compositional point of view you can vary focal lengths, contrast, open or closed frames, a interesting way of alignment of subjects, high or low key, the amount of depth of field, you name it.

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Very often though we are not only informed with pictures, but also with words. Written words or the amount of knowledge and imagination we have. Like 1001 words is worth more than a picture. You see, in my opinion the point of view on storytelling in a picture is very much formed by how much the creator shares about him or herself.

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Maybe the concept of storytelling also comes down to your own imagination. A photographer provides the visual language, pieces of information, but the knowledge, experience, intuition, and written information all make up the story, I think. Maybe I leave more aspects neglected, or for now at least. When you see a B&W picture of a tree with foliage you will likely think it has green leaves. If you see the face of a person you will try to interpret the emotional state through your own facial recognition. The photograph is however only one frame, one caption of a moment.

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And this is where I think photography differs from movies. In movies you have moving pictures, spoken words, film scores, and of course the acting or the followed persons. In photography it works maybe, a …… No, I give an example. I’ve been a huge fan of National Geographic in the past. They work with many great photographers and they shared many amazing photographs. For me however, the articles, the words and pictures, created the narratives.

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So when someone comments that a photograph tells a good story it says not only something about the creator, but also something about the viewer. And it is this interaction between the creator and the viewer that strengthens the value of photography.

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All photographs by Wouter Brandsma